Heart to Heart "Across the Table: Hard Questions"

How can this be? A 90 year old woman waits in the dark, solitary steam-bath of her attic. Three days. No water, at least not much, no food, no plumbing. No sign of hope against the overwhelming flood 'til a boat happens by. Somehow, they hear her faint cry. She's rescued. Almost. She wants out badly, she says. But on second thought, she declares, "The house next door has babies there. Help them and come back for me tomorrow." Fifteen, mostly kids, are plucked from that other house. How can there be such devastation? And such faith? This on the one hand, looters and shooters on the other? How can this be? And by the way, why does a 145 mile an hour wind seem to be aimed at a couple of million souls? Is there any way outta the fix we're in? Not just the one(s) in the news, but in our lives? Isn't there anyplace we can go, just to have a little heart-to-heart-talk… with God, with each other?
Dear God, Sweet Jesus, O how we do need to talk!

Weeks ago I set this September series in motion, sensing our need to talk, heart to heart, with God and one another. In recent Septembers we've seen towers attacked. And snipers on the loose. Elections have been fought out. Conflict's on the news. I figured this was our year for a quiet time with our Redeemer and our selves. Then along comes Katrina. Catastrophe. Chaos. The unimaginable seems like the unexplainable, marinated in the unendurable and delivered as the unsolvable. Is there anyplace we can go, just to have a little heart-to-heart … with God, with each other? Has there ever been such a need like this before?
O, just to lay our burdens down!

Tabletalk! Thank you, Jesus. It's heaven's answer for a heart-to-heart. God in Christ provides us two places where heaven and earth, our hearts and his, can communicate, share, like none other. The cross, and the table. The table actually prepares the way for us to understand and embrace the cross. With all that's happened this week, I could have selected other Scriptures. Noah. The bitter waters of Babylon where Israel wept when her homes were lost, like Gulf Port, or Picayune or New Orleans. Moses knew about wind and water. Jesus too, the storm and the calm. But I stuck with the talk at the table. It helps us see we're not alone. Not the first, not the only.

In Christ, God knows we just need somewhere to talk. Especially in hard times. And when we just don't understand. And we need some place to thrash out ideas and feelings. Especially about how God is afoot among us. People will talk, always have. Didn't you wonder at that short passage from Luke 13. It's like we walked in on a conversation or news report ½ way through. What happened to these poor souls? Pilate's soldiers have killed worshippers at the Temple. Terrible. (We've heard the same thing. Terrorists in churches, synagogues and mosques in our world.) This same governor, Pontius Pilate, has ordered an overhead waterline built into Jerusalem, paid for with temple taxes. God's money for Caesar's work. It was hated, and all who worked on it. A tower fell. 18 workers were killed. "Serves 'em right," some said. "God got 'em." Jesus and his disciples are talkin' it all over. Just like us. 'Tryin' to sort out the meaning of the news and God's hand in it. Jesus points out that God doesn't behave as we so easily suppose.

It's late for Jesus with the 12. 'Down to cases. Now the hardest questions, the deepest fears and feelings need a place to come out. Look where at happens. At table. Listen to the agonies. They sound alot like ours at the news. And as we just live with each other. "Lord, we don't know where you're going; how can we know the way?" Gee, haven't you felt like that this week? It's OK, speak up, ask. Thomas isn't the only one around the table who wants to make sense of the scary, the sad and the seemingly senseless. Philip demands, "Lord, show us the Father and we'll be satisfied." I don't know about you, but I find it painful to see God's face in the storm this week. So, if it isn't there, where is it? If it is there, how so; what's it mean? People wanna know their place, where they stand with the Lord. Believers wanna know, in the hardest times, is it worth it? A moral life. Self-sacrificing service. Trust in God? The table's the place we get the chance to ask, "Lord, who do you favor most among us?" A nervy question at a time like this. But the table gives us the place and permission. Friends, we have the treasure of the communion table today. It's God's gift to our misgivings and misunderstandings. Let's use it. Our homes have tables too. Especially if you have kids, use your tables and your talk there to ask the hard questions, share the deep doubts and feelings. And know that God in Christ is there with you. With you like this…

At the table, Jesus points the way, hears our hungers, and saves our place. Only on the cross is Jesus clearer than at the table in showing us where to cast our eye. On him. When we see trouble comin', we can all be flooded out. With or without a storm. When destruction's all around, and there's rubble everywhere, it's hard to see anything else. When the water's risin' and our spiritual house is leaky, it's hard to feel faith and not follow fear. Well, there sits Jesus at our table. "Those who've seen me have seen the Father." "I'm not leavin' you in the face of what's ahead. I'm goin' to get things ready," he says. "And I'll be back right on time for you. No need to fear." I don't know that 90 year old who saw 15 kids more compelling than own her own need. But I can tell you this. I'll bet she's been in Sunday School most all those years. Church, too. I'd wager, if I could, she knows the songs. She could look out on her neighbors because she had waited looking up to her Lord. How about you?

Peter, John, James, Philip, Thomas and the rest. He heard from all of them at the table, Jesus did. And he was determined to do two things: eat with them and die for them. At the office lunch table, the school cafeteria table, your dining room or kitchen table, as surely as at the communion table, Jesus is listening. And open. And determined. So let it out. Get it all out. Doubt, anger, fear, hope, faith, questions, quitting-wishes, quiet love for everybody else around the table. Jesus understands. 'Been there, heard and felt it before. O, how I wish I could answer the, "Why?" of this week, and the, "How could it be?" All I can say is there's Somebody at the table ready to deal with it all. Because it is not beyond him, it doesn't have to be too much for us. In fact, in the resolution, in the fixing-of-all-things, he has assured a place for us. No homelessness here…ever! "You are those who have continued with me in my trials; and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom… [with a job to do]."
From the Table, Jesus sends us with a calling that reclaims, renews and redeems. How many times are we left asking, "What can we do?" The Lord's Table, whether in his house or yours, always provides a listening, speaking, seeking place. And it always offers our heart-hungers the Bread of Life, if only we will believe. And it always says to us, "You too can offer the Bread." Says Jesus, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." And, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father."

Come with your love offering today. Know that it will do mighty and lifting things for those who have been laid so low. We hope you'll help us fill flood buckets in a few days. We'll add ours to the over 2000 sent by our Alabama, West Florida Conference already. You can find the information in the materials we've provided. There's room to work on health kits too, as you can see. These seem such little things. But multiplied by the thousands of our churches they will make a difference beyond our imagination. We who believe do what Jesus does. He says so at the table. The Body of Christ, the Church. Our little Methodist arm of it, only one example. Our Louisiana Wesley House immediately opened up to 200 souls, 60, mentally challenged from a New Orleans nursing home. Trinity UMC, Rustin, La. has over 250 in its gym. Our UMCOR efforts began as soon as the weather cleared. We know an On-Time-Savior who calls us to be an On-Time-Overtime- People. Who knows, maybe we will be bold in blessing here. What would it look like were we to step up and sponsor one or more families in need of resettlement? If there are those who want to come, we have the people, and the capacity to help. That is a BIG challenge. We are not without vision, resources or resolve. But most important, we are not without the resurrection faith that teaches us death and destruction do not have the last word.

So let's talk. With God. With his Son, Jesus Christ. And with each other. Heart-to-heart. He has provided and set the table. He is listening and showing the way. He has made a place for us. And he has given us a calling to fulfill.

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